Yesterday, we previewed Group A of the Confederations Cup. Here is a look ahead at the much leaner Group B.
Spain: The Spanish have won three major tournaments on the trot. Spoiler: they won’t be messing with success. Twenty of the 23 squad players were at Euro 2012, including the entire midfield. Chelsea right back Cesar Aspilicueta is the only player under 24 and one of just two with fewer than 10 caps. Spain should tiki-taka their way through this group with little strife. The question is whether this tournament will be an opportunity for players such as Juan Mata and Javi Martinez, coming off great seasons at club level, can work their way into the Starting XI.
Uruguay: La Celeste reached the World Cup semifinals in 2010 and won the 2011 Copa America. That’s enough tangible achievement to send the hipsters scampering toward Belgium in 2014. The Uruguayans have a lot of bite upfront with Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani. The question, as always, is whether the rest of their defensive-minded, veteran squad can get them the ball to them consistently. Five points off the automatic places in CONMEBOL, they will hope a strong showing can resurrect their qualifying campaign.
Nigeria: The Super Eagles won the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations. They left most of that squad home for this tournament. Goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama and Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel are the only players with more than 30 caps. The players that were called up missed their initial flight to Brazil, after going on strike over a payment dispute. Players wanted $10,000 each for playing in the tournament. The Nigerian Federation’s initial offer was $2,500. Gambling is not legal, of course. But, Spain minus whatever the spread is when these two countries meet may be a strong play. Just saying.
Tahiti: The Tahitians qualified by winning the 2012 OFC Nations Cup. They feature one player, former French U-21 international Marima Vahiura, who plays outside Tahiti. Vahiura will make his first international appearance. Outclassed by professional rosters, a result may be out of the question. Victory for them may be scoring a goal.
Prediction: Spain, Uruguay, Nigeria, Tahiti
Goal Control: FIFA is debuting its goal-line technology at this tournament. The technology, which for some reason costs $260,000 per stadium to install, is being given a test run before the 2014 World Cup. The EPL will also institute it starting next season.
[Photo via Getty]